Remote communication strategies: Interview with GitLab’s Samantha Lee

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A recent survey by FlexJobs revealed that 74% of people believe that flexible working has become the new normal.  One of the biggest challenges that has arisen from this shift from traditional onsite working to working remotely has been maintaining good communication practices. Unlike being in the office, it’s harder to catch up with coworkers, quickly check in on a project, and read social cues based on body language.

Still, remote work is here to stay, so it’s important for companies to nail down a reliable remote communication strategy. To help us address this challenge, we sat down with Samantha Lee, Gitlab’s Digital Nomad Career Coach and Community Advocate, for her insights on remote work and remote communication.

How did you get started as a Community Advocate at GitLab?

Before working for GitLab, I was an AmeriCorps volunteer in a few different education and community development roles. After teaching for a few years, I was motivated towards a career change that allowed me more flexibility in schedule and location. I found the Community Advocate team at GitLab and learned that it provided an awesome opportunity to combine my community development work in a new context, so I jumped on the application and landed the role in October of 2019!

What do you like most about working on an all-remote team? Least?

I love the work-life balance that I’m able to create as an all-remote employee. I’m able to structure my day around my most productive times, family commitments, and travel. This flexibility is allowing me to build up both a career and lifestyle that serve me, rather than having to prioritize one over the other.

My least favorite part is learning how to build this balance — it is still a struggle! I find that I often check Slack too late or too early. This is totally a pressure I put on myself, not coming from my team or manager, but it can be hard to disconnect without a conscious effort!

What was the biggest adjustment/challenge/surprise you faced joining an all-remote team?

One of the biggest adjustments I’ve had to make is shifting my first response/action when a question comes up. I’ve been learning how to utilize the great documentation and resources that my team has to answer my own questions and design my own solutions. As an asynchronous team, it’s essential that we try to seek out our own answers, rather than waiting for someone to log back on. I’m learning to be self-sufficient when I can, and contributing to creating documentation as I learn to better support my team.

What’s the one piece of advice you would share with professionals being thrown into a remote work setup who have never done it before?

Make time for social, informal conversations with your team. Moving from an office job to an all-remote team can feel isolating at first. Prioritize calls where you just chat and catch up with team members, or set up Slack channels to share funny photos and stories. Don’t let being remote take away from the time you usually spend getting to know your team in person!

Stay connected while you work remotely with Prezi Video

Could you share how you’re using Prezi Video in your various communications, whether internally or externally?

Recently, I’ve been using Prezi Video to create short training sessions for people who are either suddenly working from home, or are looking to secure full-time remote work. I love how easy it is to create a beautiful template, record and edit, and share information on the platform.

What other tools are useful to you as a remote worker, and what do you use each of them for?

The most essential tools I use are GitLab, Slack, and Zoom. We use GitLab for project management on my team; Slack for informal, quick communication; and Zoom for video calls and training.

What role do you think remote plays in the future of work?

Remote work offers incredible opportunities. For those who wish to travel the world, move around to different cities. For those who want the option to visit friends and family at will, remote work makes it simple. In other cases, remote work opens incredible employment opportunities to individuals who live in remote areas or have a condition that makes in-office work difficult. Remote work makes the option available to both live the life you want and have the career you dream of, without having to give up one for the other.

To learn more about remote communication and how to improve communication with your remote team, watch Samantha’s #RemoteWork video

Or dive into detail in her presentation on #RemoteWork, which you can easily reuse for your own team trainings:

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